Harmolodics is a musical philosophy and method of musical composition and improvisation developed by American jazz saxophonist-composer Ornette Coleman. His work following this philosophy during the late 1970s and 1980s inspired a style of forward-thinking jazz-funk known as harmolodic funk.[1] It is associated with avant-garde jazz and free jazz, although its implications extend beyond these limits. Coleman also used the name "Harmolodic" for both his first website and his record label.


Coleman defined harmolodics as "the use of the physical and the mental of one's own logic made into an expression of sound to bring about the musical sensation of unison executed by a single person or with a group". Applied to the particulars of music, this means that "harmony, melody, speed, rhythm, time and phrases all have equal position in the results that come from the placing and spacing of ideas".[2] (see: aspects of music)

Harmolodics seeks to free musical compositions from any tonal center, allowing harmonic progression independent of traditional European notions of tension and release (see: atonality). Harmolodics may loosely be defined as an expression of music in which harmony, movement of sound, and melody all share the same value. The general effect is that music achieves an immediately open expression, without being constrained by tonal limitations, rhythmic pre-determination, or harmonic rules.

Ronald Radano suggests that Coleman's concepts of harmonic unison and harmolodics were influenced by Pierre Boulez's theory of aleatory while Gunther Schuller suggested that harmolodics is based on the superimposition of the same or similar phrases, thus creating polytonality and heterophony.[3]

Coleman had been preparing a book called The Harmolodic Theory since at least the 1970s, but this remains unpublished. The only other known explanation of harmolodics that was written by Coleman is an article called "Prime Time for Harmolodics" (1983).

Proponents include James Blood Ulmer and Jamaaladeen Tacuma.[4] Ulmer, who played and toured with Coleman during the 1970s, has adopted harmolodics and applied the theories to his approach to jazz and blues guitar (for example, Harmolodic Guitar with Strings).

Record label

Harmolodic Inc.
Founded1995 (1995)
FounderOrnette Coleman, Denardo Coleman
GenreJazz, spoken word
Country of originUnited States
LocationHarlem, New York

In 1995, Coleman and his son, Denardo, established the Harmolodic record label, which had a marketing and distribution arrangement with Verve/PolyGram.[5] The label released its first album, Coleman's Tone Dialing, in September 1995.[5] Harmolodic went on to release new albums by Coleman and Jayne Cortez, and also reissued some of Coleman's previous albums. The label was based in Harlem, New York.[5]


Catalog number Artist Title Year
5274832 Ornette Coleman and Prime Time Tone Dialing 1995[6]
5316572 Ornette Coleman Sound Museum: Three Women 1996[7]
5319142 Ornette Coleman Sound Museum: Hidden Man 1996[8]
5319162 Ornette Coleman Body Meta (reissue) 1996[9]
5319172 Ornette Coleman Soapsuds, Soapsuds (reissue) 1996[10]
5319182 Jayne Cortez Taking the Blues Back Home 1996[11]
5377892 Ornette Coleman and Joachim Kühn Colors: Live from Leipzig 1997[12]
5319152 Ornette Coleman In All Languages (reissue) 1997[13]

See also


  1. ^ Vincent, Rickey (2014). "Jazz-Funk Fusion: The Chameleon". Funk: The Music, The People, and The Rhythm of The One. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 147. ISBN 978-1466884526.
  2. ^ Coleman, Ornette. "Prime Time for Harmolodics". Down Beat, July 1983, pp. 54–55. Quoted in Gioia (1990), p. 43.
  3. ^ Ronald M. Radano (1994). New Musical Figurations: Anthony Braxton's Cultural Critique, pp. 109, 109–110n97. ISBN 9780226701950.
  4. ^ Gioia, Ted (1990). The Imperfect Art: Reflections on Jazz and Modern Culture, p. 43. ISBN 9780195063288.
  5. ^ a b c Macnie, Jim (September 16, 1995). "Harmolodic Label Is Pure Coleman". Billboard. BPI Communications: 1, 84. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  6. ^ Tone Dialing at AllMusic. Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  7. ^ Sound Museum: Three Women at AllMusic. Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  8. ^ Sound Museum: Hidden Man at AllMusic. Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  9. ^ Body Meta at AllMusic. Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  10. ^ Soapsuds, Soapsuds at AllMusic. Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  11. ^ Taking the Blues Back Home at AllMusic. Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  12. ^ Colors: Live from Leipzig at AllMusic. Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  13. ^ In All Languages at AllMusic. Retrieved August 10, 2012.